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ARCHIVED - Old Messengers, New Media: The Legacy of Innis and McLuhan

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Essays: Archives as Medium

Introduction to the Essays

To assess the enduring value of the ideas of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan for future scholarship, Library and Archives Canada has asked a number of prominent scholars in the field of communications to comment on the existence and function of the modern archive in relation to the seminal theories of both of these philosophers. From this standpoint, what is the role of the archive? How are the archive and the practices of archival collecting understood within the realm of communications theory and practice? Can the archive be thought of as a medium of communication? What are the key points of tension, connection, and overlap that might be illuminated by a reading of the archive as a medium of communication? In relation to what is often called "knowledge management," how do archives mediate knowledge? How do archivists and users of archives fit into the operating structure of the modern archive? With the addition of more and more technological systems to control and permit access to archival material, how is the technology of the archive implicated in the mediation of history?

To consider the impact of Innis and McLuhan's ideas on the establishment and evolution of archival repositories, methods of archival practice and archival theory, the authors offer a unique take on the Innisian belief that media give shape to the imaginative boundaries of modern communities. The intersection of these voices frame Innis and McLuhan's intellectual legacies in a new light, underscoring the particular cachet their ideas hold for communications and cultural studies scholars, archivists and researchers currently working to understand and historicize communication phenomena in the 21st century.